Academic journal article Demographic Research

Family Size, Adolescents' Schooling and the Demographic Transition: Evidence from Brazil

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Family Size, Adolescents' Schooling and the Demographic Transition: Evidence from Brazil

Article excerpt

Abstract

The goal of this paper is to address whether and how the changing family sizes of cohorts born before and after the demographic transition are associated with increasing schooling in Brazil. Multivariate analyses of nationally representative data demonstrate that, although a higher proportion of adolescents born after the demographic transition live in smaller families, they also suffer a greater disadvantage from being in larger families than their peers born before the demographic transition. Additional case studies and comparative works are needed to disentangle the mechanisms behind the dynamic association between sibship size and adolescents' educational attainment found in this study.

1. Introduction

Educational attainment is the result of the efforts of several institutions: individuals, families, schools, communities, and the state. A large body of research has examined each one of these dimensions in developing countries both separately and, to a smaller extent, simultaneously (Buchman and Hannum 2001). Social scientists have long been interested in the individual and family determinants of social stratification and education, emphasizing the role of parents' education and occupation in determining children's schooling (Blau and Duncan 1967; Shavit and Blossfeld 1993). Although parental education explains a large part of the variance in educational attainment, a significant portion of the variation also comes from additional family factors, such as family size.2

Past research has documented a negative association between family size and educational attainment in the West (for excellent reviews, see Lloyd 1994; Steelman et al. 2002). The resource dilution and sibling rivalry hypotheses offer frameworks to explain the nature of this negative relationship: a larger number of siblings translates into less capital (human, social, and cultural) for each child in the family. This negative association between family size and children's schooling has been challenged in both developed (Black, Devereux, and Salvanes 2005; Guo and VanWey 1999) and developing countries, where studies have found the association between family size and children's schooling to be positive, negative, and not statistically significant, depending on the period and context examined (Lu and Treiman 2008 for China; Maralani 2008 for Indonesia). The goal of this paper is to address whether and how the changing family sizes of cohorts born before and after the fertility transition are associated with children's schooling in Brazil. I examine the following specific questions: First, how important is sibship size for educational attainment; and, second, how has the association between sibship size and schooling changed across cohorts born before and after the demographic transition?

That sibship size varies substantially with the demographic transition and socioeconomic development-a cross-national phenomenon-suggests the need for case studies of how sibship size differentially relates to educational outcomes in a variety of demographic regimes and socioeconomic contexts. Brazil offers a particularly interesting case for examining this relationship that can advance our understanding of the process of educational attainment as it relates to family size in at least two important ways.

The first contribution of this paper is to introduce Brazil to the comparative template of research on how family size relates to educational attainment, thereby adding variation to a literature that by now recognizes that this relationship is not homogenous across time or context (i.e., Lu and Treiman 2008). While a considerable body of research exists for developed countries, with a few exceptions (Anh et al. 1998; Lu and Treiman 2008; Maralani 2008; Parish and Willis 1993; Post and Pong 1998; Pong 1997), there is less coverage of empirical research that makes a serious attempt at identifying the association between siblings dynamics and educational outcomes outside the United States and Western Europe (Steelman et al. …

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